News

Smaller, paler Earth unveiled in new NASA photo

Smaller, paler Earth unveiled in new NASA photo

The wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and planet Earth and its moon in the same frame in this rare image taken on July 19, 2013 courtesy of NASA. Photo: Reuters/NASA/Handout

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – A robotic space probe nearly 900 million miles from Earth turned its gaze away from Saturn and its entourage of moons to take a picture of its home planet, NASA said on Monday.

The resulting image shows Earth as a very small, blue-tinged dot – paler and tinier than in other photos – overshadowed by the giant Saturn’s rings in foreground.

“We can’t see individual continents or people in this portrait of Earth, but this pale blue dot is a succinct summary of who we were on July 19,” Linda Spilker, Cassini spacecraft lead scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

Cassini snapped the picture on Friday, the same day NASA’s Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER probe imaged Earth as well. In that picture, Earth and the moon take up less than a pixel, but appear large because they are overexposed.

“That images of our planet have been acquired on a single day from two distant solar system outposts reminds us of this nation’s stunning technical accomplishments in planetary exploration,” MESSENGER lead scientist Sean Solomon, with Columbia University in New York, said in a statement.

“The whole event underscores for me our ‘coming of age’ as planetary explorers,” added astronomer Carolyn Porco, who oversees the Cassini imaging team at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Usually, spacecraft in the far reaches of the solar system don’t look back toward Earth to avoid damaging their instruments by direct sunlight. Last week, the sun was temporarily blocked relative to Cassini’s line of sight, allowing the U.S. space agency to take the picture.

Recent Headlines

in Local

Funeral Set For Victims of Ehamp Motorcycle Crash

Fresh
Ehamp motorcycle fatal

A funeral service has been set for Ed and Brittany McGrath, the father and daughter killed Thursday in an Easthampton motorcycle crash

in Local

Holyoke Water Plant On Agenda

Fresh
water faucet

Holyoke ratepayers could soon be footing the bill for a three-million-dollar water disinfection plant

in Local

UMass Students Keep Police Busy

Fresh
umass

Students from UMass are already keeping the Amherst police department busy

in Local

Three-County Fair Wraps Up-Franklin County Fair Gears Up

Fresh
carnival ride

The Three-County Fair has wrapped up its annual four-day festival of food, fun, rides, entertainment, and farm animals

in Local

Amherst Hosts “Trash To Treasures” Sale

Fresh
chair

The Amherst Survival Center will host its annual trash to treasures tag sale on Saturday the 15th